Jacques Dubois, maître in 1742.
Executed by Jacques Dubois (maître in 1742), one of the most celebrated ébénistes of the 18th Century, this superb commode epitomises the fascination for the Orient and the then prevalent goût for all things exotic. Decorated with lustrous panels of Japanese black and gilt lacquer set within elaborate foliate-entwined framing mounts, this commode was conceived in the 18th Century tradition of the fashionable Parisian dealers or marchands-merciers who had perfected the art of marrying the exoticism of oriental lacquer with European ébénisterie of the finest quality. The bronze mounts on the commode offered here are particularly rich in his oeuvre, the pierced vigorously scrolling mount to the apron compares to the mounts flanking the drawers on one his most celebrated pieces in lacquer, the sumptuous bureau plat formerly in the collection of Louis-Philippe-Joseph, duc d'Orléans, now in the Louvre (illustrated T. Wolvesperges, Le Meuble français en laque au XVIIIe siècle, 2000, fig. 189).
THE MARCHANDS-MERCIERS' GOUT FOR THE EXOTIC
The marchands-merciers enjoyed a monopoly on the importation of all non perishable goods from the Orient and dealers such as Hébert and Lazare-Duvaux were amongst the first to promote the fashion for mounting furniture with lacquer panels in the 1740s and 1750s. Although Dubois's career is somewhat thinly documented, he is known to have worked for the marchands Antoine-Nicolas-Joseph Bertin, Pierre II Migeon and Thomas-Joachim Hébert, this superb Japanese lacquer commode having most certainly been commissioned through the intervention of one of these fashionable dealers.
The marchand Hébert showed a distinct predilection for furniture decorated with lacquer and vernis Martin and worked extensively for the Royal Court as one of the fournisseurs de la Cour, title which he most probably obtained through the intervention of Louis XV's mistress, the comtesse de Mailly. Having commissioned furniture from Bernard Van Risen Burgh (BVRB), Matthieu Criaerd and Dubois, he is perhaps most chiefly remembered for supplying in 1737 the celebrated lacquer commode by BVRB to Queen Marie Leczinska for her chambre de retraite at the château de Fontainebleau (now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris and ill. in D. Alcouffe, Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, Dijon, 1993, vol. I, cat. 42). The latter commode is the first known piece of lacquer-decorated furniture to be dated with certainty and the first to have been delivered to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne by the marchand who later became a regular supplier to the Royal household.
Dubois's 1763 inventory lists a large stock of ormolu mounts '432 livres pesant de modèles de bronze, prisés 1 080 L'. The evidence of such a large quantity of unchased mounts having then been found in his atelier would suggest that Dubois intended to protect his exclusive use of these models for his furniture or that these were indeed supplied by one of the marchands with whom he regularly collaborated.
UN EBENISTE HORS-PAIR
Dubois did not receive his maîtrise until the age of forty-eight but was almost certainly employed in the atelier of his half-brother Noël Gérard from the late 1720s. Established in the rue de Charenton, Dubois enjoyed the privileges of an ouvrier libre and was thus unfettered by the strict guild regulations endured by his fellow ébénistes.
Although Dubois was already supplying furniture with Oriental lacquer and vernis Martin decoration from the 1740s, the reference in the 1763 inventory above-mentioned to a 'bureau de vernis de la Chine garni de bronze, 220 l' amongst the numerous examples of furniture 'de la Chine' and 'du Japon', attests to the enduring popularity of his chinoiserie pieces well into the 1760s.